Buffalo Soldiers museum vandalized with hateful graffiti

HOUSTON — A museum honoring the nation’s Black Buffalo Soldiers was vandalized with graffiti, including with a symbol that appears to be a swastika, according to facility officials.

Residents who live near the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum discovered the vandalism, according to a police report filed Tuesday.

The museum, which has been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, was spray-painted with what appears to be a swastika symbol and a statement that seems to read “Sucks Democratic Party,” according to a Facebook post by Desmond Bertrand-Pitts, the museum’s CEO.

“For 19 years we have educated the Houston, surrounding communities and the world with the stories of African American men and women who sacrifice their lives in defense of America,” said Bertrand-Pitts, whose grandfather founded the museum. “We have never dealt with such disrespect, hate and racism. It is our hope that the individuals responsible for this act are caught.”

The Buffalo Soldiers were the first regiments of Black soldiers authorized to serve during peacetime, being established in 1866. The soldiers included former slaves and veterans who served in the Civil War. They were often issued poorer uniforms and equipment than other units and faced discrimination in many of the towns they protected.

At least 18 of the soldiers won the Medal of Honor during the settlement of the West.

— The Associated Press

California malpractice cap proposal makes 2022 ballot

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California patients could get more money from medical malpractice lawsuits under a ballot initiative that is now eligible for the 2022 November election.

Since 1975, California has capped damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits at $250,000. Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, the cap was meant to deter frivolous lawsuits against doctors and hospitals while also preserving patients’ right to seek damages in court.

But the cap has not changed in 45 years, worth about 80% less than it was in 1975 when accounting for inflation. Consumer advocates have tried for years to change the cap without success.

Voters soundly defeated a similar proposal in 2014. But that initiative had multiple components, including provisions to require regular drug testing for doctors and background checks for patients and prescription drug history before prescribing certain medications.

The new initiative doesn’t include those things. Instead, it would tie the cap to inflation, increasing it to about $1.2 million.

— The Associated Press

Virus eyed in death of 8th death row inmate in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Eight inmates on California’s death row at San Quentin State Prison have died of apparent complications from the coronavirus, officials said last week, amid the largest prison outbreak of the virus in the state.

Officials said John M. Beames, 67, died on July 21 at an outside hospital, and his exact cause of death will be determined by a coroner. Beames was sentenced to death in Tulare County in 1995 for murder, torture and other crimes involving a 15-month-old child.

There have now been 14 total virus-related deaths at the prison north of San Francisco, where 717 people are on death row.

Through the state prison system, there were more than 1,900 active virus cases, and nearly 5,000 inmates have recovered. At least 870 employees had been infected and three had died.

— The Associated Press

Cowboys for Trump leader slammed for racist video

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Democrats and civil rights leaders in New Mexico are denouncing the leader of the Cowboys for Trump group after he posted a social media video calling for some Black athletes to “go back to Africa.”

The 35-minute speech from Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin on Facebook live attacked Black NFL players who support standing before games for “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” — traditionally known as the Black National Anthem — as a gesture of solidarity against racial injustice.

“They want to destroy our country,” Griffin said of the Black athletes and supporters of the song. “I got a better idea, why don’t you go back to Africa and form your little football teams over in Africa and you can play on a(n) old beat-out dirt lot and you can play your Black national anthem there. How about that?”

Griffin also offered to give people of color what he called a “101” lesson on racial identity and said anyone who does not identify as “American” first or opposes the Second Amendment right to bear arms should leave the U.S. or “go home.”

Griffin said he recorded the speech from a southern New Mexico mountaintop after fasting for three days as he contemplates the nation’s political fate as the November election approaches.

— The Associated Press

House approves bill to create Latino museum along Mall

WASHINGTON — The House has passed a bill to establish a Smithsonian museum for American Latinos that would showcase Latino history, art and culture.

The bill was approved Monday by a voice vote and now goes to the Senate, where it has bipartisan support.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus hailed the bill’s passage, noting that a museum honoring Latinos has been under consideration for more than 15 years.

“The Latino story is an American story, and our history is a central thread in the history of our nation,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, the group’s chairman.

A 23-member commission was established in 2008 to study the viability of a museum. It said in a 2011 report that creation of a museum on the National Mall was feasible. The museum would be similar to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened on the mall in 2016.

If and when President Donald Trump signed an authorization bill, the Smithsonian Institution would have two years to appoint a board of directors and locate a site for the museum.

— The Associated Press

Hispanic civil rights group parts with leader after flap

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — An Hispanic activist upset about the removal of Spanish conquistador monuments and who demanded the state’s largest university remove some ethnic studies classes is no longer a leader in the nation’s oldest Latino civil rights group.

Fred Baca, the newly named director of the League of United Latin American Citizens New Mexico, told The Associated Press that Ralph Arellanes was informed last week he won’t be returning as the group’s state executive director. Baca said Arellanes then resigned.

“In effect, he is no longer in that position,” Baca said.

Arellanes drew anger among LULAC members nationally after writing a letter to the president of the University of New Mexico and urging the school to remove any classes critical of Spanish conquistadors.

Arellanes, who signed that letter in his role of New Mexico LULAC executive director and chair of the Hispano Roundtable of New Mexico, said he has collected stories of Hispanic students “leaving classrooms crying” after being told by professors that Spanish conquistadors participated in genocide against Indigenous populations.

— The Associated Press

Norwegian flag mistaken for Confederate flag removed

ST. JOHNS, Mich. — Owners of a Michigan bed and breakfast have removed a Norwegian flag outside of their business after being accused of promoting racism from people who think that it is a Confederate flag.

Kjersten and Greg Offenecker, owners of The Nordic Pineapple, hung the flag opposite of the American flag after they moved into the Civil War-era mansion in 2018, the Lansing State Journal reported. They have since taken both flags down.

The red flag, with a blue cross superimposed on a white cross, is a nod to Kjersten Offenbecker’s grandfather, who was born in Norway. The Norwegian flag has the same colors as the Confederate flag, but the patterns and symbols are different. The Confederate flag is red with a blue “X” containing white stars.

The couple said they never would have thought anyone would mistake the Norwegian flag for something else.

“I don’t see it because I grew up with the Norwegian Flag,” Kjersten Offenbecker said. “To me, they are two distinct flags.”

Several community members have urged the couple to put the Norwegian flag back up, but the Offenbeckers say they won’t until they can figure out a way to make sure it is not mistaken for the the Confederate flag.

— The Associated Press

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